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Trip Report

Georgia: Beyond the Bulldogs

5 days getting to know Athens, Georgia and the surrounding areas

  • Athens+ 5
  • One of Athens' many festivals
  • Zombie Coffee and Donuts
  • Georgia: Beyond the Bulldogs
About Me:Mia is a writer and drone pilot based in Indiana. She's spent more than a decade traveling the world and 5 years as an expat in Japan, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Costa Rica. Mia on the Map was launched at the beginning of 2022 to doc... read more

North AmericaUnited States4 days / June 2022

Highs & Lows

Botanical Gardens and Helen, GA

Traffic in Atlanta

Itinerary Overview

As a former resident of Georgia for 4 years, I was eager to get back to see my friends and explore the places I had once called home. This particular trip began in Athens with day trips to Helen (for the Bavarian flair) and Atlanta (to satisfy my tastebuds and find the international cuisine I had been craving). 

Downtown Athens is packed full of Georgia pride in the form of bulldog statues lining the streets. The University of Georgia is right downtown and makes for a fun place to wander around. There are always events and music shows to see downtown as well. As an outdoorsy person, I love all of the local, state and national parks in this state! Trips to Helen and Atlanta can be a fun way to add different perspectives to your trip. Although it is not in this itinerary today, I highly recommend visiting Savannah, GA if you have time. 

  • 3 Nights: Athens
    Music, arts, and of course-football!
  • Day trip: Helen
    River tubing, Waterfalls, and a taste of Bavaria
  • 1 Night: Atlanta
    Culture and Museums
Athens - Music, arts, and of course-football!

Athens Music, arts, and of course-football!

Athens - Music, arts, and of course-football! - One of Athens' many festivals
One of Athens' many festivals
Athens - Music, arts, and of course-football! - Zombie Coffee and Donuts
Zombie Coffee and Donuts
Athens - Music, arts, and of course-football! - Athens Farmer's Market3+
Athens Farmer's Market

3 Days 

Athens, Georgia

Live Music

Athens is well known for its vibrant music scene. There are a number of live music venues in Athens that draw in plenty of visitors each month. Athens has been the birthplace of many well know musicians and now has a music walk of fame that highlights honorees such as R.E.M, Hal Johnson, and Drive by Truckers via gold placards on the sidewalk in front of musical venues such as Morton Theatre, 40 Watt Club, and Georgia Theatre.  Check out the website and free magazine  which highlights upcoming festivities, shows, and other events in Athens, GA

See a game at the Iconic Sanford Stadium

If you are a fan of college football or even just appreciate the energy of attending a live sporting event, I highly recommend going to a game at Sanford Stadium. It's the 10th largest stadium in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Tickets may be hard to come by if not purchased far in advance, but there are plenty of people down town tailgating and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs. Even if you can't get into the stadium, the energy downtown on game day is contagious. 

Spend time in nature at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia

As a nature lover, this is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. The grounds are massive and admission and parking are free. I recommend starting in the greenhouse area and working your way outside. There are a number of gardens to wander through with my favorite being the Flower Garden. I’m also a fan of the International Garden which features plants and gardening styles from around the world. There are trails and nature areas that span 5 miles around the property if you prefer to head into the woods. In the springtime, the cherry blossoms are not to miss! If you visit in the summer, check out the summer concert series.

Kayak the Broad River

Located in Danielsville just outside of Athens is the Broad River Outpost which supplies canoes and kayaks for visitors to spend a day on the Broad River. They even offer free wooded campsites for those who choose to rent from Broad River Outpost, known as “BRO” for short. For the adventure lovers, you can try out the class II white water section (3-5 hours) and for those who are looking for a more relaxing float down the river, there is the scenic float option (2-4 hours).

Rentals are $25/person with group discounts available. This price includes a shuttle to take you to your drop-off point. The Broad River Outpost has everything you need for a fun day on the river including food, sunscreen, and other supplies available for purchase. Check their website ahead of time to see what you should or shouldn’t bring.

Fun and Festivals

Athens and the surrounding areas are home to a number of festivals no matter the season (but I’m biased and think the best ones are in the summer and fall). One of the biggest festivals in Athens is AthFest! It is a 3 day festival usually near the end of June that is chock full of fun festivities, live music shows, and art vendors with displays around the city. If you are in Athens around this time, you can’t miss it!

There are also a number of multicultural festivals such as:

  •  The International Street Festival 
  • Hot Corner and Soul Food Festival
  • LatinX Fest
  • Asian Association Lunars Celebration
  • The Athens Human Rights Festival

If I could spend a week straight going to all of these incredible festivals in Athens, I would. Another favorite of mine is the Halloween parade and block party. Be sure to bring a costume and get ready for a night of wild fun.

Athens Twilight Criterium

Picture a bike race with a huge cash prize, mixed with fireworks and a block party along the streets of downtown Athens and you have a good idea of what to expect from the Athens Twilight Criterium. This event takes place near the end of April and during this time there are a number of events leading up to the race such as a Kids & Family fest, Arts and Wellness Walk, and of course the Friday night bike festivities.

Support the Arts

Spend an afternoon visiting the Georgia Museum of Art. Admission is free and you can reserve your ticket online here. The museum features 13 galleries which are a part of their permanent collection along with rotating exhibits featuring a wide array of artistic mediums. The museum is both an academic museum as well as the official state art museum of Georgia.

After the museum, I recommend spending an evening at Ciné, the only independently owned art house cinema in Athens and the surrounding region. The films are chosen with the intent to bring people together to enjoy a good movie in the historic venue. Their movie lineup is fantastic! There are concessions and a full bar available.

If the weather is nice, you can also check out the drive-in theatre run by Ciné with screenings in both the summer and fall. For the drive-in option, you can expect to pay by car with a minimum cost of $30/car with up to 3 people.

Athens Farmers Market

The Athens Farmers Market is held Saturday and Wednesday mornings from April until November. It’s a good-sized market with everything from fresh produce and bread to clothing, lotions, pottery, and other handicrafts. This is one of my favorite weekly events in the city as it brings so many people out to enjoy the day, support local businesses, and listen to live music (which is often present at the markets). I once had my own booth up at this market as well and always loved chatting with everyone that came by.


Helen - River tubing, Waterfalls, and a taste of Bavaria

Helen River tubing, Waterfalls, and a taste of Bavaria

Helen - River tubing, Waterfalls, and a taste of Bavaria - null
Helen - River tubing, Waterfalls, and a taste of Bavaria - null

A Day Trip to Helen, GA

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northeast Georgia, this Bavarian style town is a perfect way to spend a day. The drive from Athens to Helen is around an hour and a half and well worth it. There is plenty to do in what is known as “Georgia’s Official Outdoor Adventure Destination”. 

Helen is home to one of the biggest and best Oktoberfest celebrations in the state of Georgia and makes a great time to plan your visit! If you happen to visit in December, you are in luck! The town is dressed to the nines with holiday lights and decorations. Think straight out of a lifetime movie magical because yes, a number of lifetime Christmas movies were filmed here. 

No matter which time of year you visit, there is plenty to do in Helen.

Wander the Shops and Restaurants

I spent an entire day popping in and out of shops and felt like I could’ve kept going had I not been hungry! From gift shops to boutique shops, there was a little bit of everything here. Even if you are not much of a shopper like me, I would bet that you’d still enjoy seeing all of the unique items in the shops in the Bavarian-style buildings.

You’ll need a lunch break with all of the exploring you’ll be doing. Some popular restaurants in Helen include:

  • Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese Cafe
  • Bodensee Restaurant
  • Big Daddy’s Restaurant and Tavern
  • Old Bavaria Inn Restaurant

There are also plenty of bakeries scattered downtown that will immediately satisfy your sweet tooth. I loved Hofer’s Bakery and Cafe!

River Tubing

This is one of the most popular activities in Helen, especially during the summer. Head to Cool River Tubing to rent an inner tube and get ready for your adventure floating down the refreshing Chattahoochee River.

You can choose a 1.5 or 2.5-hour long trip (dependent on water level) for about $14/person on weekdays with a $4 increase during the weekends. If you visit with friends, you can attach your tubes together and float as a group!

Another option for tubing can be found at Helen Waterpark. The prices for tubing are the same as Cool River Tubing but their tubes offer headrests & bottoms if desired. 

If you aren’t interested in river tubing, you can head to the water park for a more enclosed water experience. They have giant slides, pools, and rafts as well. Ticket prices vary depending on height.

Visit Anna Ruby Falls

Anna and Ruby Falls are tucked in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. With just a short .4 mile uphill hike, you’ll be able to see one of the most visited waterfalls in Georgia. The shortened name is Anna Ruby falls but there are actually two separate waterfalls that are right beside one another. The views are beautiful but expect to see quite a few people visiting and getting their picturesque waterfall photos.

You can access the falls by parking near the visitor’s center at Unicoi State Park. The entrance to see the falls will be around $5/person. (prices subject to change. Double check the park website) There are trails surrounding the waterfalls and the visitor’s center and gift shop are also fun to wander.

Activities for Everyone

There are seemingly endless activities in Helen. If you didn't find what you are looking for in this itinerary, check out the If you didn't find what you are looking for in this itinerary, check out the Helen website to discover even more activities for your trip such as wine tasting, zip lining, and food tours!


Atlanta - Culture and Museums

Atlanta Culture and Museums

1 Night

Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is world famous for a number of reasons. From Stranger Things to The Hunger Games, Atlanta is one of the top Hollywood filming Locations. Atlanta is full of eclectic neighborhoods, rich history, and many claims to fame. Although this itinerary gives you just one night, I recommend adding additional time in Atlanta if possible as there is so much to see and do here. If you are flying into Georgia, you will likely be arriving or departing from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Learn about Atlanta’s History at The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

It draws parallels between the American civil rights movement and the civil rights movement on an international scale. The museum is powerful and interactive with a goal to educate, inspire and empower visitors. You can tour one of the four interactive exhibits such as The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr.  Collection.

Budget for at least 1.5-2 hours to make your way through the museum although, for me, I needed more time. It’s an emotional and moving experience to visit this museum and a must-do on your Atlanta to-do list.

There are several historical museums that make for a great addition to this visit, especially if you are a history buff! Some additional stops include:

  • The King Center: The Center for Nonviolent Social Change
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

World of Coca Cola

This is a popular stop for many who come to Atlanta. If you want the thrill of tasting a variety of Coca-Cola products made and distributed around the world, to learn about the Coca-Cola “Secret Recipe” or see old Coca-Cola Memorabilia, then this place is worth a visit. As someone who appreciates a sip of coca cola on a hot summer day, this place was such a fun place to visit with so many interactive areas scattered about the building. 

They also recently opened The Bottle Cap Cafe on site in case you get hungry after the tour. The prices are a bit much (as you can expect from most cafes at a museum or amusement park).

Tickets are $19 per adult with discounts for children and seniors. If you use the Atlanta City Pass the fee is about 44% discounted.

*Tip: If you purchase your tickets online, you can cut the lines and just show your ticket upon entry.

Georgia Aquarium

If you want to visit the largest aquarium in the United States, you will find it in Atlanta. The aquarium is near the World of Coca-Cola and has 7 main galleries with thousands of animals. I am often skeptical and cautious about visiting zoos and aquariums but I enjoyed my visit to this aquarium and found it to be thoroughly educational. 

 If you are traveling with children, this is a great way to spend a full or half day in Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium is well known for having whale sharks and beluga whales and hosts a number of educational experiences and events.

The entrance fee is free if you are a Georgia resident and visit on your birthday! Otherwise, tickets are about $40/person (discounted if you have the City Pass).

Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park spans about 22 acres and is located in Downtown Atlanta and was built just before the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta to give spectators a beautiful space nearby to enjoy the energy of the games. After the 1996 Olympic Park bombing occurred, taking the life of one bystander, there have been efforts to revitalize and restore the park.

There are many free and paid events held at the park and plenty to see and do while walking around.

If you visit during the hot summer months you can cool off at the Olympic Fountain Rings section which spouts out water. If you’d like to learn more about the history, you can head to the visitor’s center and ask about the audio tours or pay attention to the 5 Quilt Plazas that border the park.

The Skyview Atlanta Ferris Wheel is located near the park providing you an option to enjoy the views of the city from a higher viewpoint. Surrounding the park are several interesting buildings such as the CNN Center and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Q & A

  • What would you have changed?

    I would have budget for more time to explore Atlanta. There is SO MUCH to do and see there.
  • Anything go wrong during the trip?

    If you are renting a car in Atlanta, always budget for extra rush-hour traffic time as it can be quite hectic.
  • Restaurant recommendations?

    FOR ATHENS: There is an incredible amount of delicious food and drinks in Athens. I recommend eating lunch or dinner at Cali N' Titos on Lumpkin st. for beach vibes and Latin flavors. Other favorites are listed below. For BBQ: Butt Hut BBQ, Dawg Gone Good BBQ or Fresh Air BBQ For Homestyle Southern Cooking: South Kitchen + Bar, The Place For Vegan+ Vegetarian: The Grit, Hi-Lo Lounge For Breakfast: Mama's Boy or a sweeter breakfast at Zombie Coffee and Donuts For High-Quality food: Last Resort Grill, The World Famous, The National, For Drinks: Creature Comforts, Trappeze Pub, The World Famous, Cutter's Pub ATLANTA: My number one recommendation is to check out the international cuisine. I always love visiting Your Dekalb Farmer's Market to pick up a few international dishes.
  • Tips you would give a friend?

    For travel in Atlanta, if you plan on visiting some of the top tourist destinations, look into getting an Atlanta City Pass to help you save money on your entrance fees. The cost is $86/person for 5 attractions which will help you save a good deal if you plan on visiting the attractions listed on the city pass website.
  • Packing tips?

    Although Georgia is known for being warm, the winters can still get chilly. If you visit in December, I recommend you pack a winter coat to be on the safe side. If you visit Athens on game day, red and black should be your go-to color to match the Georgia Bulldog colors.
  • Transportation Tips?

    If you will be flying into Atlanta, The Groome Shuttle can get you from Atlanta to downtown Athens for about $50 dollars. For traveling within Atlanta you can use the public transportation system known as MARTA. Uber and Lyft are also popular in both Atlanta and Athens.


  • Graduate Athens. Close to the university and unique room design.

  • Loews Hotel or Airbnb. Loews hotel is a bit more of a splurge and could be a great way to cap off your trip. For a more budget-friendly option, there are plenty of nice Airbnbs in the area.